Few names in artists in terms of contemporary art come to my mind like Keith Haring, Yoko Ono, but Bob Ross was a prolific painter who comes as of his mass-market appeal in the ’80s to ’90s.
His signature of wet-on-wet oil painting technique i.e.; (Painting over a thin base layer of wet paint) became very sensational around with his artistic approach.
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In today’s generation, instructors get certified and go on to teach classes so they can discover and sell the joy of painting to the next generation.
But is Bob Ross's world being as joy-filled as it seems? That’s the question that fills in this documentary film from Netflix Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal, and Greed produced by Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone and directed by Joshua Rofe.CAST
BOB ROSS – (SELF) HOST -THE JOY OF PAINTING (ARCHIVE FOOTAGE)
About the Documentary Film
While the documentary generally positively portrays Ross with complete info of character testimonies from the people whom he knew and worked intimately with, there is a critical side of his companies like Bob Ross Inc., or BRI, that completely runs on Bob Ross's name and likeness.
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Director Joshua Rofe thankfully gives Bob Ross the human treatment he has long needed but it does no good for someone like Bob Ross for them to talk about as if they think they are beyond themselves from others.
Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Greed and Betrayal give enlightenment as a documentary that humanizes a figure just written off in a lazy manner. As a novelty, we don’t know Ross’s legacy by just using or adding inappropriate sexual matters.
A central figure in the film is Steve Ross, Bob’s only child, who claims that his father’s longtime business associates, Annette and Walt Kowalski, went against Bob’s dying wishes by taking total ownership of his name.
We are not certain that any affair or any kind of sexual terms with a business partner might have been in the mix at one point, or Ross fought all the way to protect his family’s rights.
Before it gets into more drama, Rofe fleet documentary which is of 95 minutes has many deep insights as a mini-series observes the story of Ross, illuminating the complex persona conscience. He was one showman who showed his passion for his painting through access to public television.
There was a detail in the film which was amusing that he was a great flirt. He would attract women with his softer voice and he was also a touchy kind of a person and difficult to deal with which was mentioned by Sally Schenck.
There was one person who got moved by Ross’s paintings and teaching methods- Annette Kowalski (Business Partner of Bob Ross) who learned Ross after suffering a great loss. She had a great business sense and helped Ross to get out in television and also in supplying painting products under his name.
Kowalski’s family had control over Ross of what he became as there was a headline “A minor celebrity with a huge fan following” by his show “The Joy of Painting” which inspired joy worldwide.
Power and Control are far more evident than one can imagine. The documentary shows how it got very ugly after he died in 1995 due to lymphoma.
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When Rofe was interviewing Steve about Bob Ross’s life to end and his passing there was a flood of emotions that was hit. There was no question to it that the moments he was feeling were completely raw as it was a long time ago. It still sticks with him.
The filmmakers claim that many people from Ross’s inner circle didn’t felt comfortable appearing on camera due to the fear of Kowalski’s who themselves don’t want to be interviewed. They have now a multi-millionaire dollar business that includes holiday stockings to wristwatches to Chia Pets which transpired between them and the late printer.
Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal, and Greed has a fairly standard talking with archive video approach but has an inspired way of documentary storytelling method through animation or art.
Rofe uses Bob Ross-like drawings to illustrate the shady dealings with Kowalski’s to see the shadowy figures, ominous office spaces, and images of phones that were in real life tapped- things which Ross has never thought which adds to his unsettling nature.
Bob Ross's charisma with his newly grown bud hairstyle hair, his calm face, and the gentle voice he would say “ We don’t make mistakes – we have happy accidents” for making our better ourselves.
He came off as wise, warm, and way too pure for this world. After he died in 1995, his after-life has been busy in the eighties of many collective memories.
He’s become an Internet meme and used as a Shakespeare term “ satirical touchstone in “Family Guy” and “Deadpool” and he also becomes the whispery god of A.S.M.R.
Admirers of Ross’s may have felt alarmed by the title of the Netflix series which was premiered in August. The documentary shows all the crime hallmarks, sinister underscoring, and cryptic foreshadowing traumatized-looking talking heads.
Steve Ross mentioned that he was looking to be uncovered for all these years. The trouble which had turned out with the occurring handling of Ross’s brand became the complicated subject of a legal matter.
The documentary also paints the Kowalski’s as ruthless, parasitic, and with no fear of God. They have their official website where you can buy Bob Ross bookmarks, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, waffle makers, and even a monopoly board.
Steve mentioned in the film that they only care is to control everything.
As a legal matter, the ownership of the Bob Ross franchise was settled in 2019, when Steve’s company lost a lawsuit to the BRI and lacked the funds which were appealed.
Steve claimed that Ross on his deathbed the Kowalskis pressured him to sign over his name and his likeness, but he refused. Ross made a defensive tactic by marrying his nurse which he has known for only a few months. Her name was Lynda.
A year later, Lynda and Ross’s half-brother, Jimmie Cox was sued by BRI for paintings and other physical objects such as his palette knife which he used in television for his show.
According to the documentary, Ross left the majority interest of his trust to Cox who he turned over to the Kowalskis in 1997.
Rofe also interviewed the historians about Ross’s techniques, the film, curiously never interrogates him as an artist. Thomas Kinkade was one of America’s foremost who dealt with art that didn’t have very good taste. It put him at odds that it was embarrassing to be represented.
In 1991, the Joy of Painting was carried by two-hundred and seventy stations and with this Ross made an empire of fifteen million dollars which consists of live classes, how-to books, and art supplies.
Ross wanted to bring the joy of painting to the masses and with his easy approach instead of behaving stupidly or offensively.
A painting he seems to believe that it’s a form of therapy available to anyone with a canvas and a brush. The most intriguing insight was found that Bob Ross doesn’t appear as a new documentary apart from the 2019 TIMES video.
Throughout, “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed” balances its public support with a strong discouragement of any modern financial support of the merchandise been made from it.
It feels particularly shocking from feelings of outrage to support as it doesn’t regret about bad people crushing over those with far better intentions it make sure that we don’t see any of Bob’s Legacy's part as nice or pleasing.
The film made me re-appreciate the black lines he’d boldly painted through his peaceful landscapes turning them into trees that might have given a bigger picture to it.